New Fed Chief has a lot to live up to

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 28, 2005

Talk about big shoes to fill. Ben Bernanke has some huge loafers to fill, but worse still, they're getting bigger by the day.

If Bernanke's name isn't familiar to you, you're not alone. The man who needs expanding feet is President Bush's nominee to replace longtime Federal Reserve fixture, Chairman Alan Greenspan.

For nearly 20 years, the nation's economic forecasters kept a careful eye - and ear - on Greenspan. Watching what he said - or didn't say - became a science of sorts as Greenspan presided over the Federal Reserve during one of the nation's longest time period of continued growth.

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His careful work has managed the nation's inflation threat almost constantly. Greenspan guided the nation through the dot-com bust and in the wake of the 9/11 attacks that sent the nation reeling.

While the Fed has done a good job in managing such crises, in recent years, however, an even more ominous crisis has begun to grow - and grow and grow and grow - just below the surface.

First, the United States has a massive federal deficit and it just keeps getting worse as the nation continues to pump money into the Iraq war and now more and more cash into the hurricane clean-up and rebuilding process.

We wish the amount were only in the billions of dollars, but unfortunately the nation owes several trillion dollars with no apparently plan for remedying the situation anytime soon.

In addition, massive social programs seem to be headed for disaster unless massive resources are redirected into them. Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid programs appear to be headed downhill.

If confirmed, Bernanke will likely not share Greenspan's blessing of being in the head seat during a time of great economic growth.

While Bernanke cannot directly put an end to the gluttonous spending of the federal government, he may be looked at as a spokesman for logic and reason during difficult economic times.

Bernanke will likely wind up leading the Fed during a time when some tough decisions will have to be made. We hope his guidance and ability to stamp out unnecessary economic worry matches the ability Greenspan has made so famous.